Voters Guide: Brunner vs. Kennedy for chief justice of state Supreme Court

All candidates for local and state office were sent the same series of questions by the Dayton Daily News. Our goal was to help voters make informed choices in the Nov. 8 election (early voting for which began Oct. 12).

This race, for chief justice of the state Supreme Court, is between Democrat Jennifer Brunner and Republican Sharon Kennedy. There is no incumbent. The candidates’ answers are below, in their own words. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Jennifer Brunner

Residence: Columbus

Previous public offices, elective or appointive, and years held:

ELECTED: Judge, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (2000) and re-elected 2002; Ohio Secretary of State (2006); Judge, 10th District Court of Appeals (2014) and re-elected 2016; Justice, Ohio Supreme Court (2020)


• Former Member, Counselor, Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist licensing board, appointed by Ohio John Kasich Governor, (2013 to 2014)

• Former Member, Central Ohio Transit Authority (public transit bus system operating board), appointed by Mayor of Columbus, Michael B. Coleman (2013 to 2014)

• Former Member, Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, appointed by Ohio Governor John Kasich, (2011 to 2012)

• Former Member, Franklin County Board of Elections, nominated by Franklin County Democratic Party (1997)

• Former Member, Ohio Student Loan Commission, appointed by Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste (1991-1992)


• Member and First Ally Board Chair, The Legacy Fund of the Columbus Foundation for LGBTQI community endowment (2012 to 2021 – served as Board Chair last three years)

• Past Board Member, Center for Community Solutions, Cleveland, Ohio (health and human services research, policy and advocacy, 2013 to 2019)

• OxFam America, Sisters on the Planet Ambassador, U.S. national network of women influencers (one of 3 from Ohio) who assist OxFam America in helping to achieve sufficient U.S. policy planning and resources to help improve the lives of people living in poverty or risk of harm in the world (2014 to present)

• Former Board Member, Neighborhood Launch Condominium Association (2013 to 2016)

Education: J.D. Capital University Law School, with honors

Current employment: Justice, Supreme Court of Ohio

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Why are you seeking elected office: I’m running for Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court because justice matters for every Ohioan. Steady and principled leadership of the state’s highest court is essential to helping Ohioans realize justice in their everyday lives.

The state’s constitution is the voice of its people. The Ohio Supreme Court is the constitution’s caretaker, a guardian to ensure people and their rights are protected.

As a current Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court I participate in deciding which cases the court reviews and in helping set the course for the rule of law in our state. Not all cases are accepted by the state’s highest court. This is because the constitution requires us to determine the law for matters of great and general public interest.

Why Chief Justice? Administrative and policy leadership of the court is not about an ideology of who should win and who should lose. It is about a belief and understanding that courts are only as effective as people believe them to be. Good judges and fair courts can make all the difference in the confidence Ohioans have in their judiciary. And that confidence makes our courts more effective.

I know that courts can do good things for people—protect their health, safety and welfare—with fairness, equality and respect. And I am committed to doing this every day now and as Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

I am further committed to using the power of the court to help lift the vision of all judges of the state to why we serve and the power we have to do good for all Ohioans.

Why should voters elect you: Ohio is a very diverse state with deep rural roots, storied urban communities and countless small and middle sized towns and cities. I take seriously my responsibility as one of seven people elected to do justice for all the people of Ohio. I am grateful for what I’ve learned from Ohioans in my many years of service to them, working at three levels of the state’s courts and as Ohio’s first female secretary of state.

I understand Ohioans values--quiet decency, honesty, fairness and hard work. I have lived those values, learned from my parents who grew up not far from Dayton in South Charleston, Ohio. As I have traveled during this campaign, I know that Ohioans are tired of extremism. They want good public servants to do their jobs so that they don’t have to worry about government or what they perceive it is trying to do to them. They want a government that works for good and stays out of their lives so that they can raise families and live peaceably in their communities with their families and friends.

In 2008 I received the bipartisan John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for my work as Secretary of State for “dauntless commitment” to ensuring voter enfranchisement. My approach in protecting rights is to be fiercely independent from political influences and use the rule of law toward quality public service.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities?

Task Force to Establish a Commission on Fairness and Equality in Ohio’s Courts and Legal System,

This includes support for the Criminal Sentencing Database further development and completion.

Defend judicial independence at all levels of the courts, including trial judges who are attacked by partisan interests.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities?

Task Force to Establish a Commission on Fairness and Equality in Ohio’s Courts and Legal System. More than 20 years ago, the Ohio Supreme Court established the Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness, which drew members from the courts, the bar, law enforcement, the clergy, academia, and the community. The commission issued a 1999 report that recommended ways to address pre-trial and sentencing transparency and accountability. Today, many of these recommendations remain unaddressed or unfulfilled, and new issues have emerged, prompting a need to reexamine the issue.

Criminal Sentencing Database. One of the unfulfilled recommendations of the 1999 Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness is a long-overdue data collection effort now being implemented as a pilot program. Judges, policy makers and the public need reliable data, not just anecdotal examples or judgments based on personal belief, to develop practices, policies and laws that can be objectively evaluated to see if they work as intended. The Ohio Supreme Court has empowered a task force to collect data on pre-trial and sentencing practices to identify trends, draw comparisons looking at similar types of crimes, criminal records and other sentencing factors, including characteristics and history of criminal defendants.

Defending judicial independence. I will be a steadfast defender of judicial independence in the face of increasing attacks by partisans and special interests. Thus, if a judge or a court in this state is attacked for following the law, I will defend the judiciary and the rule of law with strength and directness that will be swift and understandable for the benefit of public confidence in our courts.

Anything else you would like voters to know? A list of my endorsements may be found here:

My approach will be collaborative and to strengthen collegiality on the court for the best decisions possible from a court that matters greatly in the lives of everyday Ohioans, securing their public confidence will improve the operation of the courts all over Ohio.


Sharon Kennedy

No response